By Lorraine Netro

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has deep significance for individuals across the United States, particularly for the Gwich’in nation who have a strong connection to this special place.

Gwich’in like myself call the Arctic Refuge “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit,” or “the sacred place where life begins.” We are a caribou people. Since time immemorial, we have relied on the Arctic Refuge and the Porcupine Caribou herd that call this majestic place home and annually use it as a birthing ground. They sustain our spiritual and cultural way of life.

The significance of the Arctic Refuge is what led the Gwich’in to come together for our biennial Gwich’in Gathering in the Arctic Village this summer. There we passed a resolution recommitting to protecting the Porcupine Caribou herd and their sacred calving grounds.

And the significance of the Arctic Refuge is what led Princess Daazhraii Johnson, Gwich’in actress, activist and writer, to share her connection to this irreplaceable and majestic place. I encourage you to watch this video to hear why we are working with diverse leaders across the United States and Canada to protect the Arctic Refuge for future generations.

Lorraine Netro was born and raised in Old Crow, Yukon, Canada. She was taught the traditional values of the Vuntut Gwitchin by her late mother, Mary Netro. Lorraine has served on a number of boards including the Porcupine Caribou Management Board, the Gwich’in Council International and the Alaska Wilderness League.